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Second World War and the capitulation of Modernism


Second World War and the capitulation of Modernism. Fernando Flores Morador ... Reactionary Modernism in Germany ... been given the name 'reactionary Modernism ' ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Second World War and the capitulation of Modernism

Second World War and the capitulation of
Fernando Flores Morador
Do you think that people shall be engaged in
What do you think?
Modern bureaucracy, social engineering and the
  • According to Zygmunt Bauman the task of racism in
    Germany was perfectly adapted to the ideal of
    technical administration
  • 1) The formulation of a precise definition of the
    racial object
  • 2) Then, the registering of those who fitted the
    definition and opening a file for each
  • 3) Then, proceeding to segregate those in the
    files from the rest of the population.
  • 4) And finally, removing the segregated category
    from the land of the Aryans.
  • Zygmunt Bauman, född 1925, polsk-judisk sociolog,
    verksam som professor vid universiteten i
    Warszawa, Tel Aviv och Leeds.

  • The brutal Mechanicism, which the Holocaust
    implies, is hard to understand if we do not
    realise that behind Modern man there is a
    primitive creature.
  • The Holocaust was possible because Modern
    mechanisms were combined with archaic
    inheritances of fear and hate to the other and
    different, to the nonhuman and barbaric
  • There is nothing new in the Holocaust that has
    not happened before in respect to these feeling
    of fear and hate…
  • That which was new, was the mechanisms of
    Modernity, the power of rationality and
    technology working together to massacre humans

Reactionary Modernism in Germany
  • Modern ideas are a product of the Enlightenment,
    the eighteenth-century ideological movement that
    advocated Reason as the primary basis of
    authority, and to the practical thinking and
    technological goals born with the
    nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution.
  • It means that Modernity as a period and Modernism
    as an ideology are an indissoluble combination of
    Reason and technological thinking.

  • However, these two aspects of Modernity have not
    been accepted everywhere without problems. In
    fact, the goals of the Industrial Revolution and
    their technical implications to society, were
    easier to accept than Enlightenments
    philosophical principles, which were connected to
    the ideology of capitalism, to secularisation and
    to democracy.
  • Therefore, it is an historic fact that the
    technological implications of Modernity spread
    easier and further than the philosophical.

  • In Germany, during the last years of the 19th
    century and the first decades of the 20th
    century, the ideals of the Industrial Revolution
    were combined with Romantic national ideals and
    with racism.
  • This particular combination has been given the
    name reactionary Modernism .
  • Thomas Mann wrote the really characteristic and
    dangerous aspect of National Socialism was its
    mixture of robust Modernity and affirmative
    stance towards progress combined with dreams of
    the past and a highly technological romanticism.

  • The actual question, to which the Second World
    War in some aspect was an answer, is to know if
    Modern technology can be combined with ideologies
    other than capitalists.
  • This problem is of a high interest to the
    developing countries which find it easier to
    develop technological means than to produce
    changes in the behaviour of people which can be
    congruent with the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Modernity as the creation of standards
  • Modernity in technological terms means creation
    of standards because this makes industrial
    production possible.
  • Industrial production developed because of the
    mechanization and rationalization of the
    procedures of labour, especially during the 19th
    century in Britain.
  • The division of labour is the specialisation of
    cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed
    tasks and roles, intended to increase efficiency
    of output.
  • Historically the growth of a more and more
    complex division of labour is closely associated
    with the growth of trade, the rise of capitalism,
    and of the complexity of industrialisation
  • Standardization saved time and money and in its
    turn, because standardization is a consequence of
    capitalist production, standardization reproduced
    capitalism. Standardization makes globalisation
    possible and through standardization, capitalism
    spreads over the world.
  • Further, more globalisation produces more
    standardization and more capitalism. Therefore,
    neither globalisation nor standardisation is
    possible without a global embracing capitalistic

  • Consequently, to try, as in the Nazi Germans
    case, to reproduce standardization in industrial
    production without the underlying ideals of the
    Enlightenment, was the same as to produce a
    historic contradiction or paradox that was
    condemned to fail
  • It is not paradoxical to reject (technology
  • It is not paradoxical to embrace (technology
    Enlightenment )
  • But is paradoxical to reject the Enlightenment
    and embrace technology at the same time, as did
    the reactionary modernists in Germany.
  • The same should be said about the economical
    development of the communistic society of the
    Soviets. The development of two economical
    spheres that competed with each other during the
    Cold War could only end with the collapse of the
    weaker of the two in respect to just those
    properties of standardization and globalisation.
  • On the contrary, in the actual case of Communist
    China, the situation may be different, because
    China has managed to integrate its communist
    economy to the globalized capitalist world.

Oswald Spengler and the Decline of the West
  • Oswald Spengler 18801936, a German historian and
    philosopher wrote in 1918 The Decline of the West
    in which he presents a cyclical theory of the
    rise and decline of civilizations.
  • Spengler tied race and culture together,
    following the main stream of the ideas of Germany
    at those days.
  • Spengler argued for an organic version of
    socialism and authoritarianism. He wrote
    extensively throughout World War I and the
    interwar period, and supported German hegemony in
  • Spengler voted for the National Socialists in
    1932 and hung a swastika flag outside his Munich
    home, and the National Socialists held Spengler
    as an intellectual precursor.
  • But Spengler's pessimism about Germany and
    Europe's future, his refusal to support Nazi
    ideas of racial superiority, and his work the
    Hour of Decision, which is critical of the Nazis,
    gained him ostracism after 1933.

A pessimist view of history
  • Spenglers theory of history, which distinguishes
    between civilization and culture, supposes a
    pessimist view of history and of social
  • His philosophy of history characterises by a
    Romantic view of the primitive together with
    recognition of the necessity of development.
  • Every Culture has its own Civilization. In this
    work, for the first time the two words, hitherto
    used to express in an indefinite, more or less
    ethical, distinction, are used in a periodic
    sense, to express a strict and necessary organic
  • The Civilization is the inevitable destiny of the
    Culture, and in this principle we obtain the
    viewpoint from which the deepest and gravest
    problems of historical morphology become capable
    of solution.

The pessimism of a mechanical world
  • Civilizations are the most external and
    artificial states of which a species of developed
    humanity is capable.
  • They are a conclusion, death following life,
    rigidity following expansion, intellectual age
    and the stone-built, petrifying world-city.
  • It is possible to find remaining ideas of the
    Nietzschean cosmology in Spenglers ideas.
  • The Nietzschean eternal return is one of those,
    which suppose the non-existence of the free will
    in history, a property of history that does not
    coincide with the ideological bases of Modernity.

Bauhaus Revolutionary Modernism in Weimar 1919-33
Bauhaus Revolutionary Modernism in Weimar
  • If Spengler and others with him, were the
    expression of a reactionary Modernism, Bauhaus
    was the opposite.
  • The concrete practical, the functionalistic in
    Bauhaus ideals were combined with the ambition of
    aesthetics ideals.
  • While Modernism in USA and England was a
    pragmatic movement with industrial connotations
    without some aesthetical ambitions and in France…
  • Modernism in Art and literature dominated the
    whole process, in Germany
  • The school was founded by Walter Gropius at the
    conservative city of Weimar in 1919 as a merger
    of the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts and the
    Weimar Academy of Fine Arts.

Bauhaus Manifesto (Walter Gropius)
  • The ultimate aim of all creative activity is a
  • The decoration of buildings was once the noblest
    function of fine arts, and fine arts were
    indispensable to great architecture.
  • Today they exist in complacent isolation, and can
    only be rescued by the conscious co-operation and
    collaboration of all craftsmen.
  • Architects, painters, and sculptors must once
    again come to know and comprehend the composite
    character of a building, both as an entity and in
    terms of its various parts. Then their work will
    be filled with that true architectonic spirit
    which, as "salon art", it has lost.
  • Schools must return to the workshop.
  • The world of the pattern-designer and applied
    artist, consisting only of drawing and painting
    must become once again a world in which things
    are built.

  • Architects, painters, sculptors, we must all
    return to crafts!
  • For there is no such thing as "professional art".
    There is no essential difference between the
    artist and the craftsman. The artist is an
    exalted craftsman.
  • Let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen
    without the class-distinctions that raise an
    arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists!
  • Let us desire, conceive, and create the new
    building of the future together.
  • It will combine architecture, sculpture, and
    painting in a single form, and will one day rise
    towards the heavens from the hands of a million
    workers as the crystalline symbol of a new and
    coming faith. (Walter Gropius).

  • We notice at first, that architecture is
    proclaimed the highest ideal of art.
  • The school which during the years moved from
    Weimar to Dessau and then to Berlin - unified a
    large an important number of artists and artisans
    as Walter Gropius himself, some other names were
  • Wassily Kandinsky (18661944) a Russian painter,
    printmaker and art theorist.
  • Paul Klee (1879-1940) also was, a Swiss painter
    which was influenced by many different art styles
    in his work, including expressionism, cubism, and
  • Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983) who was a German born
    textile artist who played a fundamental role in
    the development of the Bauhaus schools weaving

Practical and aesthetical ideals as the common
ideology for both conservatives and leftists
  • The need to combine practical means with
    aesthetical ideals was a common ideology for both
    conservatives and leftists.
  • This common ideological background would lead
    Modernism to collapse when National Socialism
    took over in Germany.
  • In connection with this, the Bauhaus school was
    closed in 1933 and their teachers persecuted.
  • The Bauhaus aesthetical tradition had a major
    impact on art and architecture trends in the
    United States and Sweden, an impact which was
    increased by the fact that many of the artists
    involved fled, or were exiled, by the Nazi
  • The UN has included the Israeli state of Tel Aviv
    in the list of world heritage sites, due to its
    abundance of Bauhaus architecture.

Auschwitz and the end of Modernism
  • History has been written in Auschwitz, no doubt
    about this. No doubt exists either about the
    incommensurable magnitude of the crime
    perpetrated inside these walls.
  • Nevertheless, just the incommensurability of the
    crimes, make Auschwitz a paradox of civilization.
  • In Auschwitz, the principles of Modernism came in
    total contradiction with the principles which
    conduced to Modernity…
  • principles which were in fact the same of the
    liberal ideas of capitalism with the enforcement
    of the ideals of reason and civilization which
    characterized the Enlightenment.

  • In fact, Auschwitz contradicts the grounds of
    Modernity in every sense of the term.
  • We have seen earlier that in Germany, the
    bourgeois pragmatic idea of Modernity, was
    combined with the Romantic ideals of
    ethnocentrism and nationalism.
  • Romantic nationalism has relied on historical
    ethnic culture in which folklore developed as a
    romantic nationalist concept, was fundamental.

  • The very essence of the inner contradiction in
    Nazi-economic production was at first, their use
    of slave work in their factories
  • and secondly, their implementation of a
    Ford-inspired method of production to exterminate
    Jews, Gypsies and other minorities.
  • In a few words, the Nazi-economic system was in
    contradiction with history in using forced work -
    a survival of the Colonial Era - and in using
    factories as ritual mechanisms of death.

  • "Fordism" was coined about 1910 to describe Henry
    Ford's production method in the automobile
  • In 1903 Ford introduced methods for large-scale
    manufacturing of cars and large-scale management
    of an industrial workforce, especially
    elaborately engineered manufacturing sequences
    typified by moving assembly lines.
  • This process, which belongs to the logic of
    capitalism, employs people as workers, which then
    should also be car-buyers.
  • Fordism conceives line-production as a method to
    increase the quantity of produced cars and then
    make the cheapest possible costs per unity.
  • Fordism is the production of large amounts of
    standardized products and standardization is the
    essence of Modernity.

  • Ford mass production became in Germany, the
    Nazis method to achieve mass murdering.
  • Obviously, Modernism could not survive this.
  • German Modernism during the Nazi-period become
    the standardization of massacre

The most efficient system to exterminate people
  • Auschwitzs complex consisted of three main camps
    in Poland, 50 kilometres from Krakow
  • Auschwitz I, the administrative centre
  • Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp
  • Auschwitz III (Monowitz), a work camp.
  • According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
    in 1990, approximately 1,5 million people were
    killed there, about 90 percent of them Jews from
    almost every country in Europe.
  • Most of the dead were killed in gas chambers
    using Zyklon-B other deaths were caused by
    systematic starvation, forced labor, lack of
    disease control, individual executions, and
    so-called medical experiments.

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The Entrance, so-called "death gate," to
Auschwitz II-Birkenau, The selection" on the
Judenrampe, May/June 1944. To be sent to the
right meant assignment to a work detail to the
left, the gas chambers.
The role of the engineers in German reactionary
  • The propaganda of the Nazis predispose and
    conquer the rational minds of engineers and
    entrepreneurs in Germany.
  • Technology was understood as a property of the
    German culture and not as a historic process
    consequence of secularisation, materialism, and
  • The cultural dilemma of Germanys engineers was
    the following How could technology be integrated
    into a national culture that lacked strong
    liberal traditions and that fostered intense
    romantic and anti industrial sentiments?
  • Technology would have to be legitimated without
    succumbing to Enlightenment rationality.
  • Just like the literati, the engineers wanted to
    demonstrate that technological advance was
    compatible with German nationalism and its revolt
    against positivism.

Albert Speer, the architect and Minister for
Armaments of Hitler
  • A central figure, which may help us to understand
    this situation, was Albert Speer. Speer was
    Hitler's chief architect before becoming his
    Minister for Armaments during the war. He
    reformed Germany's war production to the extent
    that it continued to increase for over a year
    despite ever more intensive Allied bombing.
  • Speer, which spent 20 years in prison after the
    war because of his participation in the
    Nazi-government, wrote that
  • his mistake and that of many other architects,
    engineers, artists and artisans, was to remain
    uninterested in politics.
  • That means also that these technologists were
    naive enough to disconnect political technology
    from ethics. Nevertheless, many of the ideals of
    Modernity, as the ideal of creating condition for
    a better life for everybody in the nation was
    also present in the Nazi propaganda.
  • Modernity in the Nazi-world would be achieved
    with ambitious programs granting a better access
    and distribution of the material conditions for
    the nation and capitalism should be avoided
    through Corporativism.

  • The Vietnam War

Fernando Flores
Lunds universitet
The Vietnam War
  • If the final stage of Modernity began with
    Auschwitz, the ideological damage that the
    Holocaust meant for Modernism in Europe, did not
    reach the peoples mentality in the USA until
  • The Second World War left the USA in a unique
    dominant situation and in position to receive a
    large amount of very high qualified emigrants
    from all over Europe which converted the country
    into the most advanced scientific and
    technological country in the world.
  • The hegemonic roll of the USA after the Second
    World War renewed during the 50s and 60s some of
    the dreams of Modernism until these were
    definitely crossed in the Vietnam War.

Vietnam entered the Cold War era
  • During the mid-1800s, the French Empire colonized
  • France controlled Vietnam until the Second World
    War, when the Japanese in 1941 invaded Indochina.
    A nationalist insurgency emerged under the
    leadership of the communist party and Ho Chi
  • When the defeat of the Japanese Empire under
    Second World War opened a possibility of being
    free from colonialism, Vietnamese nationalist and
    communist were forced to fought the newly
    restored French colonial administration.
  • In 1954 the Colonial period ended and according
    to the Geneva Agreements two countries emerged
    North Vietnam and South Vietnam following the
    early model of Korea were created.
  • In this way, the history of Vietnam entered the
    Cold War era.

The engagement of USA
  • In 1959, USA began to send troops to Vietnam and
    the involvement of USA in Vietnam would continue
    until 1975 when the USA army was defeated and
    force to leave Vietnam.
  • During these 25-years between 2,5 and 5 million
    Vietnamese were killed.
  • The Vietnam War was a part of the Cold War and
    involved the Soviet Union, its allies, and China.

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Chemical weapons
  • One of the most controversial aspects of the of
    the USA military, was the use of chemical weapons
    with long-term ecological consequences.
  • During the period between 1961 and 1971 the USA
    use herbicides to defoliate large parts of the
  • These chemicals continue to change the landscape,
    cause diseases and birth defects, and poison the
    food chain.
  • In 19611962, the Kennedy administration
    authorized the use of chemicals to destroy rice
  • Between 1961 and 1967, the U.S. Air Force sprayed
    20 million U.S. gallons (75 700 000 L) of
    concentrated herbicides over 6 million acres
    (24 000 km²) of crops and trees, affecting an
    estimated 13 percent of South Vietnam's land.

The Vietnam War and Postmodernism
  • The Vietnam War introduced Postmodernism into the
    heart of the USAs military forces ending the era
    of Colonialism.
  • In 1969, a Defence Department study showed that
    20 percent of US soldiers in Vietnam were using
    marijuana either occasionally or frequently.

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The End